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The Guardian  /  September 9, 2016

Colin Powell told Hillary Clinton, his successor as secretary of state, that he used a personal computer to email foreign leaders “without going through State Department servers”, a seven-year-old email exchange reveals.

Powell dismissed some of the official security restrictions on him as “nonsense” and questioned why his personal digital assistant (PDA) was any more vulnerable to spies than a TV remote control or “something embedded in my shoe heel”.

The email correspondence was released on Wednesday by Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee, intending to show that Clinton’s handling of data was hardly less meticulous than previous secretaries of state. She was the only one to set up a private email server in her home, however, and has admitted this was a mistake.

The emails also offer a rare glimpse of relations between America’s top diplomats across party lines, evolving technology in an era when the BlackBerry was still king and the daily frustrations of a security detail.

Clinton and Powell were on first name terms. At 7.37am on Friday 23 January 2009, two days after she was sworn into office, she wrote flatteringly:

“Dear Colin, I hope to catch up soon w you, but I have one pressing question which only you can answer!

What were the restrictions on your use of your blackberry? Did you use it in your personal office? I’ve been told that the DSS [Diplomatic Security Service] personnel knew you had one and used it but no one fesses up to knowing how you used it!”

Barack Obama was the first president to own a BlackBerry at a time when celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears made the hand-held device fashionable. He gave it up for a smartphone only this year, although his phone cannot text or play music for security reasons.

Clinton wrote to Powell: “President Obama has struck a blow for berry addicts like us. I just have to figure out how to bring along the State Dept. Any and all advice is welcome. All the best to you and Alma, Hillary.”

Skipping formalities, Powell replied that he did not have a BlackBerry but explained how he circumvented official channels:

“What I did do was have a personal computer that was hooked up to a private phone line (sounds ancient.) So I could communicate with a wide range of friends directly without it going through the State Department servers. I even used it to do business with some foreign leaders and some of the senior folks in the Department on their personal email accounts. I did the same thing on the road in hotels.”

Powell has previously admitted using a laptop on a private line and sending notes to ambassadors and foreign ministers via personal email, according to a report by the state department’s inspector general.

In the message to Clinton, Powell said the main issue for him was PDAs – once-popular devices that included Palm Pilots – that the DSS would not allow into secure spaces.

“When I asked why not they gave me all kinds of nonsense about how they gave out signals and could be read by spies, etc. Same reason they tried to keep mobile phones out of the suite. I had numerous meetings with them.

We even opened one up for them to try to explain to me why it was more dangerous than say, a remote control for one of the many tvs in the suite. Or something embedded in my shoe heel. They never satisfied me and NSA/CIA wouldn’t back off. So, we just went about our business and stopped asking. I had an ancient version of a PDA and used it. In general, the suite was so sealed that it is hard to get signals in or out wirelessly.”

Powell went on to offer Clinton a friendly warning first reported last week when the FBI released notes of its now closed investigation into her handling of sensitive information. “However, there is a real danger. If it is public that you have a BlackBerry and it it [sic] government and you are using it, government or not, to do business, it may become an official record and subject to the law … Be very careful. I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data.”

Giving an insight into the routine frustrations of balancing security with convenience, Powell, who was secretary of state under George W Bush, added: “You will find DS driving you crazy if you let them. They had Maddy [possibly a reference to former secretary Madeleine Albright] tied up in knots. I refused to let them live in my house or build a place on my property. They found an empty garage half a block away.

“On weekends, I drove my beloved cars around town without them following me. I promised I would have a phone and not be gone more than an hour or two at Tysons or the hardware store. They hated it and asked me to sign a letter relieving them of responsibility if I got whacked while doing that. I gladly did.

“Spontaneity was my security. They wanted to have two to three guys follow me around the building all the time. I said if they were doing their job guarding the place, they didn’t need to follow me. I relented and let one guy follow me one full corridor behind just so they knew where I was if I was needed immediately. Their job is to keep you hermetically sealed up. Love, Colin.”

The email saga has continued to haunt Clinton’s presidential campaign even after the FBI concluded in July that she should not face criminal charges. She was quizzed about it closely during a “commander-in-chief” forum with military veterans on NBC News on Wednesday night.

Cummings said the 2009 exchange showed that Republicans were unfairly critical of Clinton and argued that Powell “advised Secretary Clinton with a detailed blueprint on how to skirt security rules and bypass requirements to preserve federal records, although Secretary Clinton has made clear that she did not rely on this advice”.

It “also illustrates the longstanding problem that no secretary of state ever used an official unclassified email account until the current secretary of state”, Cummings said.

The date of the Clinton-Powell email exchange raises questions over Powell’s recent denial of responsibility for providing her advice. “The truth is she was using it for a year before I sent her a memo telling her what I did,” he told the New York Post. “Her people have been trying to pin it on me.”


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U.S. lawmakers to press AOL for Powell's State Department emails

Reuters  /  September 9, 2016

U.S. lawmakers said Thursday they will seek to recover the missing emails of Colin Powell from his time as U.S. secretary of state by going directly to AOL Inc, whose email service he used for his work.

The decision came a few minutes after U.S. State Department officials testified in a hearing that the department never contacted AOL to recover the missing records, despite repeated requests by the National Archives and Records Administration over the last year.

The hearing, by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was the latest in the fallout from Hillary Clinton's decision to use an unauthorized private email system for official email while secretary of state.

Clinton, the Democratic Party presidential candidate, has said her decision was wrong, but it has continued to dog her effort to defeat Republican rival Donald Trump in the Nov. 8 election. Her defenders have pointed to some similarities in Powell's earlier use of private email, which drew fresh scrutiny at Thursday's hearing.

"I don't get this, it's ridiculous," said Democrat Stephen Lynch, a committee member. "This is the National Archives asking you to contact AOL, but you didn't do that."

Patrick Kennedy, the State Department's most senior management official, said that Powell, a Republican, never replied to the department's request to ask AOL to attempt to recover his work emails, which were not properly archived at the agency. He said the department's lawyers decided to decline the National Archives' requests that the department go to AOL directly.

"We cannot make a request for someone else's records from their provider," Kennedy said in his testimony. "That request has to be made by them."

Jason Chaffetz, the Republican who chairs the committee, then agreed to a request by the committee's most senior Democrat, Elijah Cummings, to try to recover the emails from AOL, using a subpoena if necessary. AOL is owned by telecommunications provider Verizon Communications Inc.

A spokeswoman for Powell did not respond to a request for comment. AOL did not immediately respond to questions, and has previously said the its privacy policy precludes it from discussing a customer's emails.

The State Department did not have a fully functioning email system when Powell joined it in 2001, according to agency officials. Powell has said he told technology officials to set up a computer with his AOL account in order to become the first secretary of state to use email.

In contrast, Clinton eschewed the official state.gov email system when she took office in 2009. Department officials have said she would not have received permission for this had she asked.

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Sounds to me like the Clinton machine is grasping at straws and making things up to minimize Hilary's lying and using personal email. 

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The problems we face today exist because the people who work for a living are outnumbered by the people who vote for a living.

The government can only "give" someone what they first take from another.

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